(Updated Feb. 5)
The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating after a female member of the Vancouver Police Department died Jan. 27 at her residence.
A source told theBreaker.news that the member died shortly after being discharged from Vancouver General Hospital and driven home by two members of the VPD human resources department. She had been on job-related stress leave and had also filed complaints alleging sexual harassment by her male superiors, a source said. Her body was found the next morning by her boyfriend.
According to an internal VPD email, a funeral service for Const. Nicole Chan, 30, has been scheduled for Feb. 15 at Broadway Church. Sworn members of the VPD are asked to wear dress uniform with full medals, while civilian members are asked to be in business attire for the 1 p.m. service.
Deputy Chief Steve Rai referred a Jan. 29 email request for comment to public information officer Const. Jason Robillard.
“I can confirm that we are grieving the loss of a colleague,” Robillard wrote in an email. “She passed in her home over the weekend. We are dealing with it internally and I don’t have anything additional to share.”
theBreaker.news noticed Chief Adam Palmer Tweeted a message in support of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health awareness campaign on Jan. 30. Like Rai, Palmer did not respond to a request for comment.
Andy Watson, spokesman for the B.C. Coroners Service, confirmed the agency is “in the early stages of our fact-finding investigation involving the death of a female in her early 30s.”
“The cause of death and any contributory factors would be part of the investigation and available through a Coroner’s Report upon conclusion of the investigation,” Watson wrote.
Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis did not respond.
Palmer and Rai also did not respond when theBreaker.news asked late last year for their reaction to the findings of a coroner’s inquest into the 2013 suicide of RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. At that time, they also referred the request to Robillard.
In a prepared statement, Robillard wrote: “The mental well-being of our officers is a big organizational priority and we have created and initiated programs over the years to help ensure our members are fully supported.”
Robillard said recommendations from the coroner’s inquest overlapped with some existing VPD programs, including a critical incident stress management peer support unit, internal mental health training program, human resources department support and assistance, and annual mandatory debrief sessions for those in high-stress positions.
“Members must see a psychologist of their choice,” Robillard wrote. “There are also some positions where members are mandated to go twice a year for this.”
A discussion paper on police mental health published last October by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said police are more likely to engage in suicidal behaviours than the general public. CAMH cited exposure to trauma, such as car crashes, murder scenes, child abuse, sexual assault and violence, and a rigid workplace culture as contributors to mental illness in police officers.
A number of campaigns have launched domestically and internationally in recent years, to end the stigma of mental illness among first responders. Last year, the NDP B.C. government amended the Workers Compensation Act to allow presumptive coverage for police, firefighters, paramedics, sheriffs and jail guards suffering PTSD and other ailments.
Anyone feeling distress can call 9-1-1, the 24-hour crisis line (1-800-SUICIDE in Canada; 1-800-273-TALK in the United States) or visit a hospital emergency room. People are ready to help.
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